Bees

Oak Bees

We found an oak in the corner of a field in Oxfordshire. In the tree we found a colony of bees. The bees were making the most of a warm day with an abundance of wild flowers. From the rate they were coming and going I estimated the colony to be about the size of my bees. The hollow must be a cubic foot or more. I hope they’re ready for winter.

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First Honey

I’m not in it for the honey. A refrain I’ve repeated for a year and a half. Bees are the most incredible creatures. I think humans are hard-wired to find fascinating what bees are hard-wired to do. A social insect, forming colonies from which intelligent behaviour seems to emerge. An insect which, on an individual basis seems to have enough character to be charming, but when viewed in great numbers is inescapably prone to anthropomorphism.

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Winter Turnaround

I got my bees in early 2015. They seem to have a good first year, increasing from a nucleus to a full hive, eating voraciously and putting away stores. But, as winter drew in and the year came to a close, I knew that they, and I, would face the first real test.

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Unwelcome guests

Cooking an evening meal, I reach for the oregano and then for the thyme. As the herbs start to work out where they are, why they’re here and what they’re meant to be doing, a familiar but confusing aroma issues. This doesn’t smell so much of my dinner as my beehive. And not in that cooking-with-honey way.

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What a Difference a Week Makes

There are lots of kinds of beehives, but many of them have the same construction: a brood box, which is a large space for the colony to live, and supers, which are smaller boxes, added on top, in which bees make honey and which beekeepers sometimes have to take away for their own good (the beekeepers’ own good, not the bees’).

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Honey are not the only bees

I’ve had my beehive for over two weeks. It’s full of honeybees, and getting fuller. In that time my neighbours have had two nests of very different varieties of wild native bee: leafcutters and bumblebees. They’re not camera-shy.

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A Busy July day (video)

My nucleus is building up strength. It takes 40 days from its egg-laying to a worker bee going out on its foraging missions (bees spend their first ten days in the hive doing household chores). This means that the bees now out foraging were eggs long before I acquired the nuc.

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Frustration (video)

I stopped off to wish my bees a good afternoon and to ask after their mother. One worker was clearly in some discomfort.

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The First Death

Inspecting a beehive is the central mystical ritual of beekeeping. Seeing the bees at work, spotting the queen scuttling around and appraising the hard work they are all doing is, I’ll be honest, one of the major draws for me. It’s something that should be done as infrequently as possible because it disrupts the hive, stresses the bees and interferes with the environmental conditions that they’re trying to maintain. At the height of inspection season no more than once every few days.

Beekeepers go to great lengths not to damage or kill insects. But sometimes it does happen.

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The Timelapse Beehive

Some background to timelapsebeehive.com

I’ve wanted to keep bees for 20 years, and I’m finally getting round to doing it. There’s a lot of nonsense going around about how it’s a new middle-class fad, but I recently dug this book out. It’s called the Golden Throng and it was printed in the 1940s.

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